Press Release
January 26, 2010


DAVAO CITY, Jan. 26 - Sen. Loren Legarda, NPC and NP vice presidential candidate, today bared an "agenda for peace and progress" in Mindanao, based on common understanding, harmony and cooperation between Muslims and Christians.

Speaking before the Ulama summit here on the theme, "A Common Word Towards a Common Peace," Loren said the agenda is based on the open letter sent by a group of Muslim scholars to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 11, 2007, titled "A Common Word Between Us and You."

Loren said that the letter gave the message that "Rather than fight each other in conflicts where no one can win, both Christians and Muslims should vie with each other in acts of righteousness and good works; to be fair, just and kind to one another.

"The message is particularly relevant to Mindanao whose diverse social landscape - a land shared by Muslims, Christians and Lumads - suffered conflict, poverty and marginalization over the past three decades."

Loren said it was time to seriously examine and explore new ways for an effective and sustained peace negotiation process that will bring about long-term political settlement.

"In the short term, we need to protect civilians and call for a ceasefire," she said. "We should demilitarize ARMM (Autonomous Region for Muslims Mndanao) and strengthen the National Police Force. As measures of good governance, we must give the Muslims significant representation and participation in government, create the Shari'ah Appellate Court, and immediately mobilize government resources to rehabilitate conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. "In the medium- and long-term, we must strengthen the rule of law in the region, fully implement the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, and reform the electoral process in Mindanao. We must genuinely capacitate the ARMM-Regional Government for it to be able to fulfill its promise of peace and progress to the Muslim people." Loren also emphasized that the government must promote and enhance Filipino culture, especially in Mindanao and tap and enhance people's creative energies and synergies.

"For so many years now, internal armed conflict has drained public resources not only in the region but throughout the country. This has also undermined our social fabric, which is vital to attain national goals. Tokenistic, piecemeal and on-and-off peace talks between the government and CPP/NDF and MILF have produced mere positive media points - but not genuine, just and mutually acceptable political settlement with insurgent groups," Loren deplored. Promoting harmony and understanding between Christians and Muslims, said Loren, is the spirit behind the Eid'ul Fitr Holiday Law which she authored. "This is my tribute to the Muslim people, by honoring the first day of Shawwal as a national holiday for the observance of Eid'ul Fitr. It also declares as the tenth day of Zhuld Hija, the twelfth month of the Islamic Calendar, a regional holiday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for the observance of Eid'ul Adha."

She described as one of the highest honors she received the title of "Bai Alabi" bestowed on her by the Maranao Sultanate League and the Muslim people.

"It is my solemn duty to promote a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. As a leader and lawmaker, I vow to guide the Philippines with a strategic vision of peace and development. With your help and support, I will be able to push forward the Muslim and Bangsamoro agenda of peace and progress," Loren declared.

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